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June 29, 1999

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E-Mail this column to a friend Kanchan Gupta

India gains in stature, Pakistan sinks in the mire

It has been a weekend of Le Carre-ian suspense in New Delhi. Did US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gibson Lanpher fly in with a Washington-brokered "safe passage deal" to end the battle for Kargil, a deal that would offer a "face-saving" and "honourable exit" to Mian Nawaz Sharif from what has turned out to be a bloody mess for Pakistan?

To add to the suspense, former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik flew in, literally in the cover of darkness, and flew out the next morning. Niaz Naik is a member of the track-two diplomacy gang that junkets around the world preaching utopian people-to-people friendship, ignoring hostile realities. But the fact that he flew in on a special aircraft and met Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra (and not Inder Kumar Gujral), is ample evidence that he was playing Nawaz Sharief's emissary.

Did he reiterate the "safe passage" formula that would allow the Pakistani army regulars and the Islamist thugs who have surreptitiously occupied Indian positions to escape a premature journey to jahannum?

The government has been quick to clarify that Mr Lanpher was here to merely brief our people about the discussions he and the C-in-C, US Central Command, Gen Anthony Zinni, had had in Islamabad. And that Mr Naik had indeed come here with a message from Mr Sharief, but was told that the Lahore peace process could be revived only after Indian territory is vacated of Pakistani intruders and the sanctity of the Line of Control is restored. In other words, as the slang goes, thanks, but no thanks.

Ever since a trusting India was caught on the wrong foot by the massive incursion by Pakistani army regulars (this is no longer a refutable fact) and Islamist thugs on the payroll of the likes of Osama bin Laden, the government has been consistent in its stand. A hostile act of aggression has been committed by Pakistan, violating the letter and spirit of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration. India will not rest till the aggressors are evicted from its territory -- the Pakis will have to leave, dead or alive.

Meanwhile, India will engage nations across the world in pro-active diplomacy so that nobody has any doubts about who is the real culprit.

This consistency has paid rich dividends. The Vajpayee government has demonstrated that it is resolute in both peace and war, that it can exercise extreme restraint in the face of extreme provocation, that unlike in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971, this time around no mercy shall be shown to those who have violated our motherland.

The Pakistanis can forget the picnic they had when they took over the Hazratbal shrine during Congress rule. But this firmness has been demonstrated with the civility that befits a responsible nation and a nuclear power.

On the other hand, the Pakistanis have responded in the only manner known to a rogue state. Such is their desperation, they have embarked on a suicidal route that could well end with the final decimation of a country that was doomed from birth.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah's "moth-eaten Pakistan" was halved in 1971. The remaining half is now threatened: Not necessarily by a nuclear strike by India but by starvation and worse if the IMF decides to spurn Islamabad's begging bowl.

India's response to the Pakistani aggression, in marked contrast to the wheedling reaction of the past when victories won by the armed forces on the battlefield were squandered by Congress leaders on the negotiating table, has not been without success. The international community, barring those known for harbouring rabid opinion, has unequivocally held Pakistan responsible for instigating the Kargil clash and has, equally unequivocally, pinned responsibility on Pakistan to end the crisis.

For the first time since Jawaharlal Nehru's disastrous decision to take the Kashmir issue to the UN, a decision taken against the sage advice of Sardar Patel and for which he did not take his colleagues inside and outside government into confidence -- the only other person who knew of the decision, indeed, who is believed to have influenced the decision, was Lord Mountbatten -- the West has taken a balanced view of sub-continental affairs.

Till now, the West, especially the US, leaned heavily towards Pakistan, ignoring Indian interests. This time, to quote an American official, the US is "leaning heavily on Pakistan" to undo the wrong it has committed. Compare what Robin Raphael said with what her successors are saying, and you will know the difference.

In a sense, Indian diplomacy has come of age with the Kargil conflict, leaving behind the na´ve adolescence of the Congress era when nitwits, living in a make-believe world, would strike self-righteous postures and end up offending the whole world.

If truth be told, Kashmir was, to use the quaintly sub-continental expression, "internationalised" when Pakistani intruders ran riot in October 1947 in what was Pakistan's first attempt to smash and grab Kashmir. Nehru took the issue to the UN. Having done that, you cannot keep on harping that it is a bilateral issue and that you will not countenance any third party interference.

Yes, Kashmir is an issue to be settled, ultimately, between India and Pakistan. In fact, in each of their statements, governments across the world, both collectively and individually, have reiterated this point. This by itself indicates a larger, global acceptance of the Indian position (Pakistan has all along maintained that Kashmir is more than a mere bilateral issue and raised it at every available multilateral forum).

But what if a recalcitrant and petulant Pakistan refuses to settle the issue in a civilised manner? It is quite like dealing with your next door neighbour. For example, your neighbour's dog turns rabid but your neighbour refuses to put it down. Wouldn't you seek the help of others to achieve that objective?

In Kargil -- or, for that matter, over Kashmir -- you are not dealing, at the moment, with a rational, thinking regime but with rabid dogs that are beyond the pale of civilisation. You can kill the dogs with your army and your air force, but to wipe out the virus, you need the help of others.

That is the reality. The sooner we accept it, the better it shall be, not only for the people of India but for the peoples of the sub-continent. Now that we have international opinion favouring us, we should take the Kashmir issue to its logical conclusion -- both militarily and diplomatically. India has not yielded an inch ever since the battle for Kargil began. On the contrary, by playing the game according to the rules and acknowledging realities, it has gained in stature.

For the first time, the realities of the battlefield have been acknowledged and the full force of our military might unleashed, but it was limited to the express purpose of evicting the intruders. India's success on the Kargil front is a tribute to our soldiers and officers. Those who have been lampooning the government for not crossing the LoC or opening another front, are thankfully not in power.

Similarly, for the first time, realities of global power politics in the post-Berlin Wall era have been taken into account and a diplomatic initiative crafted to harness international opinion in India's favour. This is in sharp contrast to previous governments in Delhi successfully turning international opinion against India. Credit for our diplomatic success goes to Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is welcome to continue to be belligerent and provide fodder to a certain Ms Sonia Gandhi who decided to hurl charges against the government of India at a rally in Mhow instead of attending the all-party meeting on Kargil called by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Just shows how priorities differ from party to party, person to person.

Kanchan Gupta

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